Primo Levi and Auschwitz
1. Al di qua del bene e del male: Justice in Dante's Inferno and in Primo Levi's First and Last Books 5
CHAPTER I AL Dl QUA DEL BENE E DEL MALE: JUSTICE IN DANTE'S INFERNO AND IN PRIMO LEVI'S FIRST AND LAST BOOKS Alcune psicologi moderni pensano che il senso della gius- tizia e particolarmente intenso nei perseguitati. Essi riven- dicano ardentamente giustizia, e quanto piii ne sono privi, tanto piii si fanno un 'idea elevata, sia del suo valore che dei suoi benefici. Checcbe ne sia del carattere generate di tale teoria, essa sembra adattarsi perfettamente a Dante e alia sua opera. 1 This judgment applies just as "perfectly" to Primo Levi as to Dante. Justice is often a central issue in accounts of Auschwitz, just as it is usual- ly invoked whenever there is human suffering. Primo Levi, however, wit- nessed and survived some of the greatest suffering of our time, and yet he is strangely unforthcoming on the subject of justice. True, his books are peppered with references to justice: as it was perverted in the death camps, as it eludes their survivors, as it was thwarted by many war criminals. And yet, he stops just short of either enunciating a call for justice or of develop- ing his own systematic line of thought. Levi repeatedly refrains from direct judgment of his former oppressors, often absolving those "grey 6 Justice in Dante and Levi zoners" who were coerced into abetting the Final Solution, and demurs on the issue of justice when analyzing such closely allied elements as the "memory of offense" or "useless" and "useful" violence. At the...
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